A Love Story

My husband and I like to watch movies any chance we get.  It doesn’t matter what kind of movie; it only matters that he and I get a chance to unwind and just be with each other.  The other night we watched a romantic comedy, and it got me thinking about the Valentine’s Day post I wanted to write.  Like so many other romantic movies, it followed a typical format: Boy and girl going about their daily lives; boy and girl cross paths by some twist of fate; boy and girl lock eyes for the first time, sparks fly, and a swell of romantic music ensues at that moment, letting the viewers know that this is the beginning of something beautiful.

My husband and I have been married for 13 years, though all told we’ve been together for 16.  Our romance began not like the scene described above, but more like this type of romantic comedy:  Boy and girl going about their daily lives; boy and girl cross paths for the first time; boy does something to annoy girl; girl writes off boy as a non-love interest; boy and girl get to know each other over time, and then realize that they have found their soul mates in each other. (Cue swell of romantic music now).  That’s how it happened for us.

I remember the night we got engaged, like it was yesterday.  We went to dinner at Tiffany’s on Valentine’s Day, and then went to the overlook on Mt. Washington.  For those of you not familiar with Tiffany’s, it was a nice restaurant in the South Hills right on route 51; long since gone, it is now Pan Asia, which is actually another favorite restaurant of ours.  Their sushi and General Tso is fabulous!

It was bitterly cold that night, just like it is now, but from the heights of Mt. Washington the view of the city lights glittering below was breathtaking.  It was there that my soul mate asked me to spend eternity with him.  “How do you know when you have found the one? How do you know when it’s love?” I remember asking my dad once when I was a teenager. “Don’t worry, you’ll know,” was his confident, yet unreassuring reply. This was not the answer I wanted to hear…but he was right.  Eric and I had only been dating for four months, but in my heart I knew he was the one.  The truth is, I knew he was the one on our first date.

Now, years later, I look at my precious little girl who will be a teenager before I know it, and I’m waiting for the day when she asks me the same question.  How will I answer her?  I’ll tell her the un-movie-like, yet perfect, wouldn’t-change-a-thing love story of her parents…and then I’ll give her the same confident, yet unreassuring answer, because it’s true: “Don’t worry, you’ll know.”

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Lisa & Dan | Expecting

You know, it really is a small world.  I used to dismiss the saying as an old cliché, but the older I get, the more I am discovering that it’s true!  Meet Lisa and her husband Dan, a lovely couple who is expecting their first child in a few days.  Lisa was referred to me by a good friend that I used to work with, and when I found out who the referral was, I couldn’t believe it.  Lisa was in fact my assistant 10 years ago at that very same company; she was a teenager in high school then, but now she is all grown up with a career in education, a husband, and a baby on the way.  Where does the time go?

Lisa looks fantastic; more mature, and yet exactly the same as when I knew her all those years ago.  The pregnancy has only made her more beautiful–she is glowing!


Dan actually made these letters himself with a jigsaw!


Tiny little baby booties–so cute!

Thanks Lisa and Dan for a wonderful maternity session.  I can’t wait for the newborn photo shoot of Logan!

Amanda - The baby booties with the brown sweater is my fav ! Soooo cute :-) goes great with that background – when can i come visit the studio?

deb feth - dan & lisa—you two are so stinkin’ cute! the pics are absolutely beautiful!!
sandy—another fabulous job!! you are blessed with such talent!

Heather Drago - Love the bootie/sweater picture! I can totally here you giggling as you are taking this. You and Dan will be amazing parents :)

Much love,

Dan Richmond - We had a great time taking these pictures, and are happy to announce that Logan was born Wednesday, February 17.

Introducing Baby Logan | Newborn Session | Red Lotus Photography Blog - […] I just say that I love my job?  Lisa and Dan finally welcomed their little bundle of love into the world, and I was lucky enough to have the […]

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Cassandra & Lee | Pittsburgh Wedding

As promised, a  full post on my couple Casey and Lee, whose wedding was recently featured in Pittsburgh Weddings magazine!  Such a vibrant and fun loving couple; they are both the kind of people who just light up a room with their smiles.

Casey was absolutely radiant on her wedding day.


I love how Casey and her father were looking at each other as he pulled back her veil.


Their church had such beautiful dramatic lighting.



Part of the ceremony included a very touching slide show of photos from their youth up through their courtship, set to the song “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles.


The evening light was just gorgeous.


One of my favorites from the day.


The reception was held at the LeMont, which offered an amazing view of the city while guests dined and danced.


I won’t repeat the stories that were told by the best man and maid of honor, but I will say that there was no shortage of reactions like this:


After the garter was put on the girl, the tables were turned!


DJ Steve Maffei, Jr. and his father kept the dance floor full the entire night.  This is the second time I have worked with Steve, and I have to say that I was quite impressed with his professionalism and ability to lead the events of the evening.  If you want a master of ceremonies who will keep the party thumping, I would check him out.

Congratulations, Casey and Lee–all the best to you both!

Paige - Great shots!! Loooove the dancing pictures..Looks like this wedding was a ton of fun :)

Stephanie Faro - These pictures are awesome Sandy!! Looks like you captured all the right moments of a wonderful day!

Amanda - I love the night shots :-) Slideshow at the ceremony – how cool! I love mt.washington

Leeann Marie - Great work! I love the shot in the church – beautiful coloring. Also that CAKE! yum!!


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As I sat at my computer earlier this afternoon editing photos, I could hear the snow plows going by just outside my window.  I wanted to keep my nose to the grindstone and finish my editing, but the allure of photographing a beautiful snow covered world beckoned me like a siren that I could not ignore.  So rarely do I get to take pictures “just for fun” these days, that I thought maybe I could indulge in a few quick minutes away from the computer.  Enjoy these photos that I captured from the comfort of my doorway, and enjoy the wonderful snow before it’s all gone!








Amanda - Love the toning on the snow shots :-) That was friday – I bet these scenes look a lot different now! We got almost 28 inches – we started measuring friday night with a ruler and lost it in the snow and had to move up to a yard stick! 1-4 are my favorites!

Paige Butcher - LOVE these snow shots. So calm and pristine. Much lovelier than the grimy city snow we have here in downtown Morgantown. Blah.

Anna - *hums* “walkin in a winter wonderlannnnd!”
these are so pretty! I wish our snow looked this white but after about two days the coal trucks and traffic destroy it (we live in a coal mining town between about 2 – 3 coal mine locations)
Also, I LOVE the tones!

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The Knot Best of Weddings 2010 Pick

I’ve been sitting on this news for a while, but I can finally let it out:  Red Lotus Photography has been awarded The Knot’s Best of Weddings 2010 Pick!!  I am so honored to be named one of Pittsburgh’s best wedding photographers!  A big thank you goes out to my clients for voting for me–you are wonderful, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be the one who captured your memories.

Growing up, I always wanted a career that I loved, and now I am living the dream!  I feel so fortunate that I get paid for doing something I feel so passionately about: storytelling and the preservation of memories.

A big hug and a kiss goes to my ever-supportive husband and biggest cheerleader, Eric, who always believes in me… and pushes me to believe in myself.  And of course an Eskimo kiss goes to my little girl, who is my very inspiration for being.  These two people are the loves of my life, the very air that I breathe, and without them I am nothing.

If you are reading this, please leave me some blog love by commenting below!   Here’s to a fabulous 2010!!

Mermanda - You definitely deserve this honor, Sandy! I am very happy for you :)

Paige - Ahh! Congrats! That’s so exciting :)

Jenny - Congratulations Sandy! So happy for you.

Amanda - Congratulations!!! This is awesome! Much deserved :-) I want to hear all about it!

Shannon - WOW!!!! Congratulations on such a well-deserved honor! I simply cannot wait for you to photograph my wedding in September!!

deana heron - You make me so proud

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Published! | Pittsburgh Magazine Feature

One of my weddings was just featured in Pittsburgh Weddings magazine!!  Such an honor.  To see more photos, check back later this week for a full blog post on Casey and Lee’s beautiful October wedding!


E - I am extremely proud of you :) It is soo incredibly amazing that you are now being publicly acknowledged for your passion-one that privately we all knew you were capable of. Words cannot express my admiration.

Loves, Hugs & Kisses,

Marcia Furman - This is so awesome Sandy! You definitely deserve it! So much talent! :D

Natalie - I’m so proud of you!!!!

Amanda - Ok so i blacked out for a minute when this screen loaded.

Then palpations, drooling, eyes narrowed, growl sound, greening with envy.

LOOK HOW BIG YOUR NAME IS!!! its even teeny tiny on this post – and i can still read it so in real life its like a bilboard!


No more hiding your light under a bush (ancient mom-ism) it’s out there for the world to see –


I was so so very excited for you when Amanda told me. :D

Cassandra & Lee | Pittsburgh Wedding » Red Lotus Photography Blog - […] promised, a  full post on my couple Casey and Lee, whose wedding was recently featured in Pittsburgh Weddings magazine!  Such a vibrant and fun loving couple; they both the kind of […]

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Happy Birthday, Baby Girl

Earlier this week we celebrated little miss Sassette’s fifth birthday.  Fifth!  Where did the time go?  It seems only yesterday that we brought home our little fuzzy-headed, baby powder-scented, 6 pound bundle of love.  She was our late Christmas present and by far the best gift we have ever been given.   Now our little peanut is a chatterbox preschooler with a blossoming personality and a boundless imagination.  Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for this sweet little girl.

I love how children encourage us to enjoy the simple things in life.  Yesterday as I sat at my computer editing photos, I felt a tug on my sleeve.  “Let’s go out and play in the snow, mom!” she begged, bouncing up and down like a jumping bean.  I do love looking at the snow, but the thought of leaving my warm house and going out into the snow was making me shiver.  Still, how could I say no to such enthusiasm?  Out into the frosty winter wonderland we went, bundled to to the hilt.  As Little Miss went bounding into the fluffy white snow, I stood motionless, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells all around me.  It was…wonderful.  Did you ever notice how clean the world smells after a snowfall?  How quiet the neighborhood becomes?  How the dazzling the snow looks under the moonlight, glittering like a million little diamonds?

“Mommy, make a snow angel!” Little Miss exclaimed.  Oh, boy.  Lay down in the snow?  I used to make snow angels all the time when I was a kid.  Sure, when you had your trusty snow suit and moon boots, you felt completely impervious to the elements, and you could roll around in that white stuff till the cows came home.  Speaking of which, why don’t they sell full-bodied snow suits with the furry hood and body-length zipper any more?  All you can buy now is snow overalls.  And what ever happened to moon boots??  So they were a little funky looking.  Those babies kept your toes warm the entire day while you went sled riding with your friends!  With certain trends coming back into style every 20 years or so, surely someone could bring moon boots back.  Like how bell-bottoms came back as flared pants.  Ok, I’m going off on a tangent.  Back to the story…

“Mommy, make a snow angel!”  Little Miss beamed.  Reluctantly, I bent to the ground and laid back onto the snow.  I felt coolness surround me and slowly seep through my clothing, but to my surprise, I was not uncomfortably cold like I thought I would be.  As I looked straight up into the indigo sky, overlooked by by the silhouette of bare trees all around, delicate little flakes drifted onto my face and melted.  It was…fantastic.  Peaceful.  Magical.  Suddenly, I was ten years old again, looking at the world from a whole new angle.  I didn’t want to get up; I just wanted this simple moment to last forever.  If I had my trusty snow suit and moon boots I could have lasted at least an hour…

Happy birthday, baby girl.  Thank you for helping me to remember that I need to stop and enjoy the simple things in life.  Though it breaks my heart to see you grow up so fast, I have enjoyed every minute of it, and I can’t wait to see what the coming years bring!



Stephanie Faro - Sandy – your daughter is BEAUTIFUL!! I love your story too! It made me smile as I read it.

Anna - I love her smile so much its so sweet.
And the real reason I came over to your blog is to say CONGRATULATIONS ON BEING PUBLISHED! (please excuse the all caps but I figured that was good reason for obnoxious lettering :) )
I am so excited for you.

Paige - So sweet :) :)

deanna - your little one is so beautiful sandy:)

Amanda - I love her cheeks :-) Also very cool use of the snowflake white background. Would love to know the sneaky way you did that ;-)

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Merry Christmas!

It’s technically about a half hour past Christmas, but I say that until you actually go to sleep, it’s still Christmas. :)   The upper left photo is my daughter with her two favorite Christmas characters, Heat Miser and Snow Miser.  She was so thrilled when she opened these two presents; she has been requesting to see “The Year Without a Santa Claus” non-stop for weeks.  The bottom right photo is her looking in the mirror of the “Under the Sea” musical jewelry box I gave her; every girl needs a special place to stash her secret treasures.

Christmas was a blast this year; four is such a fun age, full of imagination and whimsy.  On Christmas Eve I watched as little miss Sassette, as I like to call her, spent a good hour diligently wrapping little gifts for each of her favorite stuffed animals, then place the gifts  and their recipients under the tree to wait for Santa Claus.  What a sight to see that tree was, with Oscar the octopus, Nemo the clownfish, and Frownie waiting patiently for Father Christmas to come.  When she woke this morning, the first thing she did before opening any of her own gifts was to help the dog and each of her stuffed friends open their gifts.  So cute!

It’s times like these that I feel so incredibly blessed that it takes my breath away.  Merry Christmas, dear Reader!  May you be blessed with the joy of of being surrounded by your loved ones this holiday, and many moments that take your breath away.


Amanda - Your bokeh is aaaa-maaaze-iiing ;-)

I love the mirror photo! She is growing up so fast. Someday – some photographer will take her picture staring into a mirror as she gets ready on her wedding day with you there beside her. It’s so precious, it all starts with a little girl.

Anna - Oh my word she is so precious! and where did you get the heat miser and snow miser figures! they are my favorite as well. I love the photo of her looking in the mirror the colors are wonderful.

A - DUDE IS IT SNOWING ON YOUR BLOG????? How did you do that??

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Emily & John | Masontown Wedding

Emily and John were wed at All Saints Church in Masontown, PA.  If I had to only choose one word to describe Emily and John, it would be…FUN!  Such a fun couple with a great sense of humor and a down to earth, easygoing attitude that makes you feel like you could hang out with them all day, even if you just met them.

Emily and John had already known each other for 15 years before they tied the knot; the first time they met was in 9th grade biology.  Though they were friends through high school, they each went their own way after graduation.  A decade later, it took a chance meeting at their 10 year high school reunion to remind them of the amazing connection they had with each other, leaving them with the obvious question, “Why aren’t we together??”

Both knew that they wanted friendship in their marriage, and when they finally came together, there was no doubt they had found the person who could be both friend and lifelong partner.  You can feel it in the air when you are around them…they are best friends who are so in tune to each other, so at ease, and the fun they have with each other permeates their surroundings.  What a wonderful way to start a marriage!

Doesn’t John look dashing in his Navy uniform?


Emily was just a vision.





We went to Emily’s grandparents’ 130 acre farm for some photos.  Ahhh, I love the country.  At the top of this hill you could see miles of rolling fields and woods in every direction.  A storm front was moving in later that night, causing the wind to really pick up, so we had some fun with it!



The bridal party members were a bunch of cards.  Miming….need I say more?


Favorite from the day.


Second favorite from the day.



Emily and John’s flower girls, or rather, “flower dogs” made an appearance for photos.  Look at that face!


Ok, now let me tell you how I really knew we would get along famously; see that cowbell?  Emily and John gave each of their guests one at the reception, and then right before they made their grand entrance, they had the DJ play one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits of all time–the one with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken in “Gotta Have More Cowbell!!”  I have never heard such cheering and cowbell clanking as I did when they finally made their entrance.  Awesome!


There was popcorn and cotton candy for kids of all ages.


Love the backlighting in this image, courtesy of my trusty radio trigger and off-camera flash.


Emily and John, thank you so much for allowing me to document the love, friendship, and fun that you two share.  Best wishes and lots of love!  Sandy

Amanda - I LOVE the field pictures! The details of the bell and the smiley cookies are so cool :-) My favs are 2, 11, 12 and 13. And the dogs ! I am so jealous of your ‘through the veil’ shot!

There should be a book – “Ode to a grassy field.”

Emily Chuma - Sandy…I just saw that we are on your blog today! It was SOOO much fun! John will actually be heading home soon…and I will have survived my first deployment…next up for us will hopefully be contacting you for some baby pictures! Thank you again for everything!

Sandy - Emily! So great to hear that you and John are doing well. Thanks so much to you, too–I had an awesome time with you both! I would absolutely love it if you called me for baby pictures!!!

Shannon - I love the cowbell idea!! I totally want to do that!

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Carolyn & Justin | Butler Wedding at the Succop Conservancy

Carolyn and Justin were wed at the gorgeous Succop Conservancy in Butler, PA.   The Succop Conservancy, which is practically across the street from The Mansion on Route 8,  is a 170-year old stately mansion located on 50 acres of beautiful land, truly a photographer’s dream.  I can’t say enough good things about this venue!  From the moment I arrived, I wanted to do a little happy dance, because all my favorite elements were there:  beautiful  and charming structures, tasteful art and antique decor, two sparkling ponds complete with ducks and geese, winding trails through fields of tall grasses, herb gardens, colorful doorways of old wood and peeling paint, little nooks for taking pictures everywhere you turn…Oh, Succop Conservancy, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…


The upper right corner of this collage shows the bridal suite – spacious, well decorated, and with two windows to allow natural light into the room.  Brides-to-be, here’s a tip for better pictures that is so often overlooked: If those getting ready shots are important to you and you want them to be beautiful, take the time to check out locations beforehand.  Look for a room that has plenty of natural light, ample space for your bridesmaids to gather around you, nice furniture, a place to hang your dress (preferably near a window), and is uncluttered.


The lace on Carolyn’s dress was so pretty, and the bow was the perfect accent.  Oh, Succop Conservancy, I love thee for thy thoughtful touches, such as this coat tree for hanging the wedding gown.




Just beautiful.



Love capturing the groom’s face when he sees his bride for the first time.  Image by Amy.


It was a gorgeous day–look at that sky!  Carolyn and Justin picked the perfect time of day for their ceremony, just a few hours before sunset.  The sun was down far enough so that it created the perfect touch of delicious backlighting.  Brides-to-be, here’s another tip for better photos:  When you decide on a time for your ceremony and pictures afterwards, keep in mind that the best lighting occurs 1-2 hours before sunset.  When you check out your outdoor venue, try to be there during the time frame that your ceremony or formals will take place to get an idea for the lighting.  Choose a spot that has nice, even lighting like this.  Oh, Succop Conservancy, I love thee for thy picturesque spot in front of the pond and even lighting…thy sun sets from the perfect angle…














A few minutes before the reception, I noticed this gorgeous spot of sunlight.  I asked Carolyn to go over there and play with her veil in the light–so graceful.


Such pretty colors Carolyn chose for her bouquet and centerpieces by Gift Baskets, Flowers, and More in Zelienople.


Justin and Carolyn gave pine tree seedlings as favors–a unique and earth-friendly idea.


Such a lovely cake by Mimi’s Bake Shoppe in Cranberry.




I would like to take a moment to point out the impressive athleticism displayed by one of Carolyn and Justin’s guests during the bouquet toss.  Wow!


The mood was set by the music and colorful uplighting in the pavilion, as well as on the surrounding trees, courtesy of DJ Frank Gloor of Otto Productions.



The perfect ending to a perfect day.  Carolyn and Justin, thank you so much for a wonderful time.  I’m so glad that you chose me to capture your wedding memories.  I wish you both all the best that life has to offer!


If you are planning a wedding in Butler or the surrounding areas, I suggest that you consider the Succop Conservancy.  Then give me a call, because I am in love with this venue!

A - Ok this is officially the next place I would like to go with you. HELLO PERFECT VENUE! I love your panormaliciousness. And your ambient light photos are buttery and sweet. And you always make the food look so darn good. What a beautiful couple! You can tell they really are in love :-) I love the shot under the willow tree, they are so comfortable with you ! That’s when the good photos happen :-D

Carolyn Fogle - I cannot wait to see the rest! They are wonderful and I know that is simply because you are also wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing our day and for spending so much time with us. I’m glad you liked the venue as much as we did. We’ll be in touch! -Carolyn

Anna - Oh my word that dress is so beautiful! and I love love love the last shot. Thank you for the comment on my post. I actually tried making my own action today…it was interesting seeing as I didnt know how to work the thing very well but I figured it out in the end. & yes I love watching your blog :D

Succop Conservancy Bridal Show, E-Session Winner, and a Contest–Oh my! | Red Lotus Photography Blog - […] I did a blog post about a wedding that I photographed there last year; you can view it by clicking here.  The Succop conservancy is a lovely venue with a charming mansion and acres of natural beauty, […]

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B E   I N   T H E   K N O W !